I sometimes brag that I know Milwaukee so well, that all you have to do is tell me an address and I can pretty much get you there. With a few exceptions on the North and West Sides, I know my way around the whole city, but just because I pride myself on being a walking GPS, doesn't mean I visit all places equally.
In fact, ask yourself this question and please answer it seriously: How much of Milwaukee do you really see?
I bring it up because I had a meeting in Menomonee Falls yesterday, and partially to avoid I-94 construction, but partly out of curiosity, I opted to take Fond du Lac Avenue northwest all the way to get there. As I passed through a part of the city that I knew but didn't see very often, I was reminded of just how parochial my Milwaukee existence is.
The slow drive forced me to pay attention to my surroundings. True, I saw my share of boarded up businesses, but mostly I saw barber shops, cell phone stores, churches, auto parts supplies stores and day cares. I certainly wasn't driving through Milwaukee's worst neighborhoods; in fact, the Fondy corridor had a vibrant, if different, feel to it. Passing the former Capitol Court, I remembered shopping there. People still certainly shop in what it's turned into – just not me.
And that's my point. When I break it down, most of my life falls into a rectangular swath of activity that is bordered by the lake on the east, my office on the north, my home on the south, and perhaps as far as the Domes on the west. Of course, I get out of this little comfort zone to visit my parents or my in-laws or to go to Brewers games or to go to Mayfair. But the reality is, I can't remember the last time I went bowling at Silverbird Lanes on 84th St. and Silver Spring Dr., the alley I passed by yesterday. It probably was after buying an album at neighboring Mainstream Records, which is long gone.
I realized, regretfully, that if two-thirds of the City of Milwaukee would cease to exist, it would have little effect on me. Which makes me part of the problem, and I take no pride in admitting this.
So, how about you? If you like in the City of Milwaukee, how much of it do you see on a regular basis? I, personally, hope to see more. While I don't see myself doing my grocery shopping on the north side, I will visit the Fondy Farmers Market this summer. And next time a meeting takes me to Menomonee Falls, I will absolutely, positively get there taking city streets.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.